Two tennis courts at City Park to be converted into six pickleball courts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2020

SALISBURY — After months of back-and-forth debate, the city council on Tuesday landed on what they called a “win-win” for both tennis and pickleball players.

In a 4-1 vote, the council directed the Parks and Recreation department to convert two tennis courts at City Park into six pickleball courts. The council also tasked the city to apply for a United States Tennis Association grant to provide funding for resurfacing of the tennis courts. The city must provide a local match if they are awarded a grant.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins was the lone “no” vote.

The match between the pickleball and tennis players began January 2019 when the council approved a $25,000 budget amendment to appropriate a Parks and Recreation donation. Tennis players argued there was not transparency or a process to convert the courts. Pickleball players said the sport is growing and that courts are often filled with players, who are forced to bring their own equipment like nets to the City Park courts.

Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves gave a presentation showing options: return donated funds for the pickleball conversion and leave courts as is, though resurfacing was needed; move forward with the court conversion; or build a new facility at another location like the Salisbury Civic Center. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board previously unanimously recommended moving forward with conversion because it would serve as many residents as possible interested in both programs.

Residents Mary Miller James and Luann Nordine spoke for tennis players, with James saying she doesn’t look as kindly to a private donation as Mayor Karen Alexander or others did.

“I think private money is terrific,” James said. “I have said this before when it goes to something like Hurley Park or the dog park or the Vietnam memorial we have, but when private money swoops in to a public, taxpayer funded facility, the optics are different there.”

Portions of the donation came from Councilman David Post and parks board member Jon Post, David’s brother. Both are active pickleball players.

City Attorney Graham Corriher told the council Tuesday’s vote was a legislative decision and David Post would not gain financially from the decision after Heggins voiced concerns she received from citizens.

“I’m happy that I’m able to make the donation,” David Post said.

Jon Post said Parks and Recreations has modified their offerings with the needs of the community in mind, talking about the playground equipment at City Park growing.

“Things change. Times change,” he said. “We need to listen to the trends. They are trying to do a lot of work with a little bit of money.”

Alexander said the board considered the best way to leverage funds departments have and that she was grateful for the donation.

“We’re all interested in having a win-win,” Alexander said. “They are giving money to the public good for hundreds of others to play pickleball.”

With the donation, courts No. 1 and No. 2 at City Park will be converted to pickleball. The council tasked City Manager Lane Bailey to look at funds to provide a match if a USTA grant is awarded.

Council Members Tamara Sheffield and Brian Miller called the decision an “and” solution to improve tennis courts and provide permanent pickleball courts.